BRISTOL — Greg Biffle is hoping this stay at the top the Sprint Cup points standings lasts longer than one week.
Following his third consecutive third-place finish, the Roush Fenway driver enters Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with the target on his back as the Sprint Cup points leader.
The last time Biffle led the field was June 2005 following Infineon Raceway. The lead lasted one week.
Biffle is hoping to have turned a corner from a disappointing 2011, where he was winless in missing the points chase.
The driver gave a lot of credit to new crew chief Matt Puccia.
“Just plain and simple, Matt Puccia is the reason why we’re running and competing and finishing the way we are,” Biffle said this week. “This team needed leadership. He was willing to step up and take the task one. (He’s) done a fantastic job so far.”
To maintain his early success, Biffle is going to need a solid run at Bristol where he has yet to visit victory lane in the Sprint Cup series.
A year ago, Biffle delivered an eighth place finish in the Food City 500 and has finished as high as third at the track with an average finish of 11.8.
“Bristol is high on my list and it’s one of my favorite tracks to go to,” Biffle said. “The important keys to getting around Bristol are qualifying well and getting a good pit box to keep your track position.
“Being the point leader we are still showing up with the same exact plan. What we always try to do is win, and I want to win at Bristol sine I’ve never won there. We know we are capable of running in the top five, we just have to figure out how to be there at the end.”
Johnson making steep climb
After being hit with a stiff penalty following the season-opening Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe’s team is fighting its way out of a hole.
With two consecutive top-five finishes, including a second last week at Las Vegas, Johnson, who was dead-last in points after Daytona, is nearing the top 20 in Cup points. Points are important to Johnson, but the former Cup champion is trying to keep his focus on finishing races and doing his job on the race track.
“Points are definitely important,” Johnson said earlier this week. “To be honest with you, I’m not thinking about it. We have the fortune of a lot of racing left before the Chase cutoff and certainly with the appeal process underway, and our chance to hopefully get back those 25 points, we’ll see what happens there.
“If that goes against us, it doesn’t change my mindset of finishing as well as I can and trying to win races. And Bristol, I’m so proud of the one win I have there. It’s been such a tough track on me over the years that I really want another trophy there. We’ve been very close and I think we’ll be a threat.”
Johnson won the 2010 Food City 500 and has four top fives in the last five races at the half-mile oval.
Nationwide Race full of talent
Many of Sprint Cup’s biggest names will be taking to the track a day early on St. Patrick’s Day for the Ford EcoBoost 300.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are all entered into the event looking to get used to a rhythm on the oval in advance of Sunday’s Cup race.
Earnhardt will be making his 11th Nationwide start at Bristol, coming off a third-place finish in the same race a year ago.
Harvick, who is the Nationwide Series’ all-time winningest drive at Bristol, will be looking for win number six, while Busch is one win away from tying Harvick’s mark.